In what is fast becoming a presidential tradition, President Biden is planning to alter the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. The administration says Biden plans to restore Bears Ears, created by Barack Obama and severely downsized by Donald Trump, to its original size of 1.36 million acres, NPR reports. Biden also plans to restore the 1.87 million acres of another national monument in Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and restore protections to the Northeast Canyons and Seamount Marine National Monument off the New England coast, reports the New York Times. Trump opened the marine sanctuary to commercial fishing last year.
Trump shrunk Bears Ears by almost 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante by around 50% in a 2017 executive order. He called restrictions on mining and drilling in the region a "massive land grab." The order Biden plans to sign Friday is among the steps his administration "has taken to restore protections to some of America's most cherished lands and waters, many of which are sacred to Tribal Nations," the White House said in a statement.
The move to restore protections to Bears Ears was welcomed by environmentalists and tribal groups—but not by Utah lawmakers including Gov. Spencer Cox, who called for Congress to pass a bill so "we're not fighting this battle every year for 20 years, 25 years." Sen. Mitt Romney slammed Biden for failing to build consensus on the issue, the AP reports. "Yet again, Utah’s national monuments are being used as a political football between administrations," the Republican tweeted. (Read more Bears Ears National Monument stories.)